Running Food - Chia Charge
28th Jan 2014
I was half way through a 21 mile race a couple of months back and was struggling. Approaching a check point a friend caught me up and I managed to stay with her for about a mile at which point she simply maintained her pace as I faded on a climb up Lose Hill. We caught up on Facebook the following day and she commented that I looked like I was out of energy. She was bang on. Despite early nights, eating well, and an early start and a bowl full of porridge and two bananas on race day, by 10 miles I was pretty much out of it. She recommended Running Food, a relatively new company who use the super-food chia seeds in their products. I'd read about the magic of chia in the amazing book Born To Run. It's one of the secret ingredients of the Tarahuma tribe in Mexico's Copper Canyons (if you haven;t read then book then I urge you to do so!). So I did a bit of reading and it's not just the Tarahuma who use it. Rich Role and Scott Jurek also mention it in their books. Essentially chia seeds rock. I shan't spend any time in this review extolling their virtues as others have done so with spades if you do a quick web search (here for example are 10 good reasons to use them). What I'll do instead is talk about my experience of using them.
The friend who'd put me onto Running Foods did so primarily because she uses the products, but also because she is sponsored by them (because she uses their products!). So she put me in touch and Tim, who runs the company, very friendlily sent me a small sample in the post. My first experience of using them was on a winter run in the Lakes. Tim had sent me a selection of flapjack style bars, and also some drink mix. I foolishly didn't read all the instructions on the packets of drink, checked the mix ratios and poured a couple of packets into my bladder along with a liter and a half of water. I'd assumed that the seeds would have been ground to a powder in order to mix with water, but on further reading since this episode I've discovered that the seeds themselves react quickly with watre to form a gelatinous coating which slows down their digestion, which in turn helps to prolong the time they are in your system doing their stuff. Mixing them in a bladder immediately clogged the hose union and rendered the bladder unusable. I didn't have another bottle to hand so decanted what I could into a jug and drank the lot there and then. I then ran for the best part of 4 hours and didn't need to drink once! It was a hard run, very hard. It was wet, windy, and well below zero with the wind chill, but I felt energised for virtually the whole time. As well as the drink before hand I wolfed down one of the flapjacks half way around. It tasted good. Very fatty, with just enough salt to be tasty and not unpleasant (psychologically I found it reassuring to know that I was probably taking on enough salt). I obviously will never know how I would have fared on that run with regular water in my bladder and popping gels every hour, but my feeling is that the Running Food stuff I took on board helped enormously.
Aside from that run I have tended to keep the flapjacks for longer runs as that's where I see them being of most benefit, and they haven't let me down yet. They are pretty big, and I don't always eat a whole one in a single go, but they are robust enough that they don't destroy themselves in your bum bag once opened. Each time I've used them the benefits have been noticeable and I am about to place an order for a batch of them for the coming months. I'm also going to buy some chia seeds and start using them a little more in my regular diet.
BTW, the runner who caught me up and passed me was Salluy Fawcett, local legend, who shortly after this event, finished the Amsterdam Marathon in under 3 hours. Read into that what you will!